I am a business owner in the D.C. area and have been looking to hire an assistant for administrative purposes. Several days ago I interviewed a candidate who walked in to the room with visible neck and facial tattoos. As my business caters to young children and adults (and their parents), it would not be appropriate for any tattoos (unless they are religious/cultural in nature) to be visible.
I determined he was not a viable candidate and subsequently sent him a courtesy e-mail thanking him for his time (I did NOT mention any tattoos). He responded with several rude e-mails questioning my hiring practices and stated he would be pursuing legal action due to discrimination.
Does his potential lawsuit hold any merit? As a small business owner, the threat of legal action worries me. Thank you!
Discrimination means more than simple taking an adverse action against a person of a particular race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability (referred to in law as "protected classes"). It means taking an action against the person specifically BECAUSE OF the person's membership in a protected class.
Discrimination can take two forms. The first is disparate treatment, where the employer applies different standards and rules to employees in one protected class than to employees who are not in that protected class, in such a way that those in the protected class are placed at an unfair disadvantage in the workplace. The second kind of discrimination is called "hostile work environment" or "HWE". That's when the employer allows employees to harass another employer BECAUSE the employee belongs to a protected class. Both types of discrimination are against the law.
Tattoos are not a "protected class."
I'm licensed to practice law only in Indiana, and we've never met, so I can't give you "legal" advice. My answer is simply "friendly" advice based on my experience as an attorney in Indiana, my knowledge of federal and common law, and common sense. Even if you are in Indiana, employment law questions are very fact specific, and based on the limited information you provided in your post, I can't give you legal advice, and my answer is intended as general information only. It doesn't create an attorney-client relationship.
The DC Human Right Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of personal appearance. You should probably consult with an attorney licensed in DC.
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